With a heavy sigh she stopped for a brief moment to rest, her arms were tired and her back ached. At each landing the baby stroller full of groceries got heavier. With her one arm she struggled to pull the stroller up the wooden steps. Her other arm held her baby son.
She smiled downed at her baby, “Two landings climbed and one more to go. We will be home soon and I can get you out of all those clothes.”
She heard a gruff voice, “Give me the baby.”
She looked up at the top of the landing to see her neighbor who lived across the hall, Mr. Murphy. He was an older man with thin gray hair who always wore a gray cardigan sweater. She walked up the stairs and handed the baby to him. When she unlocked the apartment door her neighbor walked into the living room and laid the baby in the crib by the wall. She pulled the stroller up the steps and into the small kitchen.
She walked over to the crib and stuck her hand out, “I’m Denise, and this little guy is my son, Joey. Thanks for your help”
Mr. Murphy ignored her offer of a hand shake and continued to get Joey out of his snow suit.
“A baby his age shouldn’t be out in the cold weather.”
"Mr. Murphy,there is no one to take care of him. I have no choice but to bring Joey with me.”
“Where is his father?”
“In Iraq. Three days after Joey was born my husband, Joe, shipped out.”
Mr. Murphy laid Joey’s snow suit across the end of the crib and started to walk out of the apartment.
“Next time you need groceries give me a holler. I will watch Joey and you can pick up a few things for me. I’m too old to be out in the cold. Makes the arthritis in my hips hurt something fierce.”
She knew little about her neighbor. If it was not for the mail box next to hers she would not even know his name. Whenever she saw him in the hall she would smile and say hello. He never smiled, just grumbled a hello. She made a decision to get a smile out of Mr. Murphy.
The next day she heard Mr. Murphy outside his apartment door. As she quickly opened her door he turned toward her.
“Mr. Murphy, if you have no plans for Christmas I would like you to spend it with Joey and me. No Christmas gifts, just Christmas dinner. You don’t need to bring a thing but an appetite. “
“No family, no plans”, walked into his apartment and closed the door.
A few days later she invited him over for a bowl of her homemade chicken noodle soup.
“Mr. Murphy, have you thought anymore about Christmas with Joey and me?”
“I’ll think about it.”
The following week Mr. Murphy took care of Joey while she went to the corner market. When she returned with the baby stroller full of groceries she found Mr. Murphy holding Joey in his arms, both asleep in the living room chair. He seemed embarrassed that she caught him asleep with the baby.
“Mr. Murphy, have you decided to spend Christmas with Joey and me?”
Christmas arrived without an answer from Mr. Murphy. She dressed Joey and her in their holiday best. With the ham in the oven and potatoes boiling on the stove she played with Joey on the living room floor. With a toothless smile her baby son laughed and kicked his legs.
A knock at the door startled her. She opened the door to see Mr. Murphy in a red cardigan sweater.
“Mr. Murphy I’m so glad you decided to spend Christmas with us.”
Mr. Murphy sat at the small kitchen table and held Joey while she sliced the ham.
“My name is not Murphy, its Lewis, George Lewis.I never bothered to change the name on the mail box.”
“So can Joey and I call you Grandpa Lewis?”
As he held Joey in his arms a smile crossed his face and said,“That would be a nice Christmas gift.”
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